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Things to see and do at Wenlock Edge

A tree-framed view of the Wrekin beyond the Cheshire Vale from Wenlock Edge, Shropshire
Wenlock Edge | © National Trust Images/David Noton

There are lots of things to do at Wenlock Edge. From circular walks to admire the surrounding views, to a natural play trail to keep the little ones amused, here’s what you can do in the Shropshire countryside.

Summer wildlife at Wenlock Edge

Enjoy walking through the woodland as the light trickles through the leaves, speckled wood butterflies flutter by and enchanter’s nightshade blooms under the hazel. Common spotted orchids will be flowering on the verges of the wide sunny rides and birds will be singing. At Wilderhope Manor, young swifts do acrobatics around the roof and screeching as they go.

The meadows fill with a variety of stunning colours. You can find pyramidal orchids, purple vetch, devil’s-bit scabious, bird’s-foot trefoil, lady’s bedstraw and more. Butterflies feed on these beautiful wildflowers on warm days, including meadow brown, little skipper, marbled white and ringlet. Volunteers walk in the meadows every week from April to September, collecting data on the species and numbers present which goes into the national recording scheme.

Orchids out on the Edge (June–July)

As you enter the car park in Much Wenlock and look to the left, you’ll see lots of purple spikes on the verge. These are southern marsh orchids and are notoriously difficult to identify with confidence because they vary greatly in appearance, with flowers ranging from dark to pale pink and markings varying considerably. To add to the confusion, they hybridise with other Dactyloriza species such as common spotted orchid. Southern marsh orchids are often thought of as a coastal species, but they do grow inland in damp meadows and on riverbanks.

Lots of beautiful common spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsia) flower on Wenlock Edge in June and can stay in bloom until August. They’re very distinctive and named for their leaves, which are green with purplish oval spots and grow in a rosette at ground level. They have light pink flowers that form densely packed clusters on tall spikes and have darker pink markings on the three-lobed lips of their petals.

The common spotted is the most common of all UK orchids because it grows in calcareous to neutral soils and in lots of different habitats including woodland, roadside verges, hedgerows, old quarries, sand dunes and marshes. For the best chance of seeing a good show of these orchids in bloom, follow the Jenny Wind self-guided walk.

Also flowering in June and July are pyramidal orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis). This species is named for its pyramid-shaped cluster of flowers, ranging from bright to pale pink, but confusion can arise because the flower becomes more cylindrical as it develops. It’s a native perennial of well-drained limestone soils and, like many orchids, needs a specific fungus to be present in the soil in order to bloom. You can see lots of these orchids in Ippikin’s meadow.

Wilderhope Manor - the largest colony of swifts in Shropshire

Swifts are interesting birds. Superb fliers, they eat and sleep on the wing and have long scythe-like wings with a distinctive short-forked tail. They’re summer visitors to the UK, where they breed, and they spend the winter in Africa. A nickname for them is ‘devil screamers’ which they live up to in the summer towards dusk, as flocks of them career madly around the chimneys at Wilderhope Manor, screaming excitedly as they go.

Den building at Cherryburn, Northumberland
Lots of fun for all the family | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Natural play trail

The natural play area is set within the beautiful woodland and includes balance beams, a seesaw, obstacle courses, den-building area and more. Wenlock Edge abounds with wildlife, and you can get a closer look at some woodland birds from the bird hide.

'50 things to do before you are 11¾'

You can also complete some of the ‘50 things’ activities on the natural play trail or out on the wider estate. Create your own adventures and make lasting memories. Here’s a taster of a few for you to try.

  • No. 13 Make a mud creation
    Come and get your hands dirty and make a squidgy, squelchy mud pie and decorate it with twigs and leaves.
  • No. 26 Hunt for fossils and bones
    Search for fossils of 425-million-year-old sea creatures in our quarries.
  • No. 31 Make friends with a bug
    Lift up logs and look under leaves to find some creepy crawlies.
  • No. 44 Watch a bird
    Spot birds, including nuthatch and greater spotted woodpeckers, from the bird hide near Presthope car park.
  • No. 4 Build a den
    Build yourself an impressive den in the dedicated area at Presthope.
  • No. 11 Explore on wheels
    Two main tracks run like a spine along the Wenlock Edge totalling six miles end-to-end (12 miles return).
  • No. 12 Have fun with sticks
    Create your own games and activities using found items in the woodland.
A summer view from the escarpment of Wenlock Edge at Hill Top, Shropshire, with exposed limestone patches and pine trees.

Discover more at Wenlock Edge

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